This is the final part of the two part series written by MNUte covering Utah Utes 2018 football recruiting:
Now that we’ve appeased the pessimists of the fan base (in Part One covering the Long Shots), we get to shift our focus to the recruits that Utah has a strong chance of landing. Remember that these are opinions based on collections of data from various sources. But looking at all the facts, Utah should have at least a 50% chance or better with most of these recruits, with some exceptions of course. So without further ado, Utah fans, I give you your Not-So-Long-Shots (in descending order of player ranking).
Soloman Enis, Four-Star WR My guess: Utah Utes (~70% chance)
Long and fast, Enis fits the mold of a true number one receiver. If you want a Utah player comparison, think of a more naturally talented version of Tim Patrick who’s already further along in technical development, essentially. He runs clean routes and excels short, deep and in jump ball situations. And best of all, Utah might be more in the running for him than you think.
Everyone assumes that he will commit to the Penn State Nittany Lions, his dad’s alma mater, and they were the biggest threat for a long period of time. However, they already have four receivers committed and/or signed in this class: one three-star recruit, two four-stars, and a five-star who has practically the same physical dimensions and play style as Enis. So, Penn State is probably not looking for another receiver, not even one as talented as Enis.
Arizona is in the same boat, with four receivers committed in this class. Among the majority of his remaining suitors, I would say Utah has a pretty strong advantage because Utah actually got him onto campus for an official visit.
The biggest threat right now might actually be the USC Trojans. Despite their scholarship crunch, they still brought him out on December 15 for an official visit and have no committed receivers as of right now. However, they have the pretty big hindrance that they are over their scholarship allotment as a team (not the 25 per-year cap, the 85 total scholarship cap). This is bound to get even worse if USC manages to land four-star athlete Talanoa Hufanga and five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, which would be a pretty big weapon Utah can use against USC until they are able to prove otherwise. Long story short, the early signing period significantly aided Utah’s shot at landing Enis.
Tyler Manoa: Four-Star DT My guess: Utah Utes (~60% chance)
Alex already did a great article on Manoa (which you can read here), so I won’t go too in depth here. Between his top three of the Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins and Utah Utes, it is fairly murky as far as a favorite is concerned. As a Cali boy, you would think that UCLA would have an edge. However, with all of the coaching turnover the program has faced and the uncertainty with how the defense will be moving forward, I actually have UCLA as less of a contender than you might think.Between UO and Utah, it was huge that UO kept Jim Leavitt as their defensive coordinator. But I would still say it is somewhere close to a 50-50 chance, given how close to the vest Manoa keeps everything. The factor that I think tips the scales in Utah’s favor is that they get his last visit and his host for that visit will be his cousin . This is one of the recruits we won’t know for sure until he commits, but don’t count him out as a future member of the D-Cock.
Chris Olave: Four-Star WR My guess: UCLA Bruins (Utah ~30% chance)
Olave is probably the recruit that gives me the biggest headache. Jack Tuttle’s star receiver this year, Utah got a visit from him most likely because of Jack. However, he apparently loved his visit because of all the effort Fred Whittingham and the Ute staff put into it and is strongly considering Utah. The large “BUT” in all of this is that Olave also reminds me of an otter, getting distracted by the newest shiny object that flits into his vision. Tennessee just offered him on the 13th as part of their “If it moves and converts oxygen to CO2 on the west coast, let’s offer them” campaign and according to Olave, he’s actually strongly considering Tennessee. The same has happened with Michigan, Ohio State and so on, as big programs offer him and slowly string him along as a good fallback option. The big-name brands offer him and he seems enthralled by them until the next offer, which makes figuring out where he’s going to land difficult.
Because of Tuttle and his great visit (this can’t be emphasized enough, Utah rolled out the red carpet for him and he LOVED his visit), I think the Utes are in the final 3 contenders. The Ohio State Buckeyes are out in my mind because they have two higher ranked receivers signed and seemed to treat Olave as plan B in case something fell through. The Michigan Wolverines also seemed to be using him as plan B, so I want to hope that he realized that and has cooled on them. Of the schools he’s considering, I’d say it comes down to Utah, UCLA, and Michigan. Since UCLA gets his last official visit January 12th, I’m going to give them the edge and I think they’ll land him unless jack can work a miracle. However, I would love to be dead-wrong, as Olave would give Utah a consistent deep-threat for years to come.
Cam Jones: Four-Star S My guess: Ole Miss Rebels (Utah ~30% chance)
A 4 star safety, Jones is a rangy safety that is just as comfortable sitting over the top in coverage as he is in the box. Given his size and range, he projects more as a free safety than a strong safety, but could drop down and cover tight ends if need be similar to what Ballard did at times this year. Utah offered him on December 8th, so a very late offer in the process,
Everyone’s counting Utah out and saying it will likely be Nebraska or Ole Miss, but I actually think Utah is far more in this than others. First of all, the other three teams in Jones’s top four have two safeties committed or signed whereas Utah has none. Also, Utah has a history of developing DBs, and Utah can point to Marcus Williams, Eric Rowe, Eric Weddle, and so on. Ole Miss’ last NFL safety was Kendrick Lewis in 2010, Baylor’s was Ahmad Dixon in 2014, and Nebraska’s was Nathan Gerry this last year and Daimion Stafford in 2013. So, Utah offers Jones great NFL development and a clearer route to playing time after Corrion Ballard, Marquise Blair, and Chase Hansen leave next year. However, the Utes were late to the party and Ole Miss gets his last official on the 26th. So, although Utah has a shot, I’m still going to say Jones ends up as a Rebel.
Tennessee Pututau: Four-Star DE/LB My guess: Utah Utes (~90% chance)
I’ve talked about Tennessee ad nauseam throughout comment sections, but essentially, he’s as close to a sure thing as there is for Utah in this class. When he was on UteZone radio, he dropped several hints that he was leaning Utah, despite the late push by Michigan State. My only worry is the January 12th visit to UW, since Washington head coach Chris Petersen is just amazing at pulling kids to him and out of the blue just locking them down. But I still think with Utah getting his last visit days before the signing period, Pututau will be a Ute.
Jackson Cravens: Three-Star DT My guess: Utah Utes (~85% chance)
You know a player is good when, despite an injury that kept him out all season, Utah is fighting Michigan State and Georgia for him. I honestly don’t know much about the kid or his recruiting because he stays relatively private and doesn’t give much info that can be used to get data from, but most of the experts seem to think it’s a Utah-MSU battle with Utah coming out on top. He is also the nephew of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.
Zidane Thomas: Three-Star RB My guess: Utah Utes (~85% chance)
A slightly faster Zack Moss clone, Thomas is a strong inside runner with a little bit of speed and wiggle to get to the edge. He recently decommitted from the Boise State Broncos, and Utah seems to be the favorite to land him following his official visit a few weeks ago. I think Utah will gladly take him and stick him behind Moss and DHC as the heir apparent in a few years, but this doesn’t necessarily cut out the possibility of another back if a truly elite player comes along, such as the recently offered Mychale Salahuddin, a four-star all-purpose back out of Washington, D.C. and recent USC decommit.
Matt Tago: Three-Star ATH My guess: Utah Utes (~75% chance)
A former UCLA Bruins commit who decommitted in the wake of the recent coaching uncertainty. Tago is an athlete that I see starting his time for Utah at linebacker. He is one of those players that you don’t really notice on film because he’s just doing all of the little things right, which is an important trait for an inside linebacker. As far as where he’s going to land, Utah seems to be the favorite, but since Tago’s not much of a socialite or talker, it’s possible that no one has any solid idea.
Andrew Mataafa: Three-Star LB My guess: Utah Utes (~85% chance)
If you are still having nightmare flashbacks because of Andrew’s cousin, Hercules, you’re not alone. Andrew is not the fastest or most athletic linebacker in this class, but he has the right instincts for the position always seems to be around the ball, and is a VERY hard tackler. Hopefully, with the right program and time with a strength coach, Andrew will become a similar terror as his cousin.
Right now, his final three are Utah, Vanderbilt and Washington State. However, Utah is the favorite according to most experts and there’s nothing to indicate a change in that belief.
Blake and Brant Kuithe: Three-Star DE & ATH My guess: Utah Utes (~75% chance)
Twins out of Katy, Texas, these two recently decommitted from the Rice Owls and came onto the radar of the media members covering Utah. Both are three-star recruits with Blake being a D-End and Brant being a 6-3, 212 pound running back/h-back. Utah seems to be their biggest offer and the favorite to land them both, which I don’t know how to feel about.
Blake is a very talented run defender who just doesn’t give up the edge but to say that he’s not a pass rusher is an understatement. I could be wrong and he could just have been focusing so much on not giving up the edge, but he doesn’t seem to have any repertoire of pass rush moves. As this season showed us, pass-rushing is a strong need for the Utes so taking on a more or less one-dimensional player with one of Utah’s limited scholarships isn’t sitting great with me.
Brant however, is an intriguing prospect. Think of Sione Lund and you get Kuithe. Good enough speed (especially for his size) to get the job done, but incredible quickness, cutting power and strength. And like Lund, more of a jumbo-RB or H-back. I think landing both twins would be a solid pickup but adds pressure on Utah for Jordan’s and Pirtle’s commitments as pass rushers to have an immediate impact this upcoming season.